As 2020 wraps up, it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of life on Earth. From how we gather to who is elected in the highest office, this year has been one of major uprooting. Among these changes—big or small—it’s natural that our relationship to personal grooming has shifted as well. When most of America went under lockdown ten months ago, it raised a big question that many of us are still grappling to answer: what does normal look like in this new world? Specifically, what does it look like when we are now mostly seeing ourselves through the lens of Zoom and social media.
Nonetheless, as our lives transformed, so did our relationship with beauty. Comfort became the new chic and less is the new more. Vox reports that cosmetics sales went way down during quarantine, but there’s been a spike in selfcare products as millions of Americans continue to work from home and limit themselves socially. To determine if this metamorphosis is only isolated to this period, or if it’s reflective of a more gradual shift in how we practice grooming, NYLON talked to seven women about how their relationship with beauty, beauty standards, and the beauty industry itself has changed in 2020:
Halleta Alemu, model and actress
With race being a highlighted topic of discussion this entire year and along with the deep solitude of quarantine, I was really able to download how I was operating with a white supremacist's mindset to beauty. I was both consciously and subconsciously altering my appearance to be digestible for the white gaze. As an actress and model, I am constantly being judged for my appearance. But, I was putting another anvil of pressure on myself trying to reject what I looked like naturally to fit what I thought was the "pinnacle" of beauty. I used to religiously straighten my hair. I would get routine Brazilian Blowouts to alter my curl pattern, which basically eradicated any sense of curl completely. To sum up, my personal grooming routines were so outwardly focused. Rather than focusing on how I felt and what would actually make me feel good, I was focused on what looked good.
But I've grown so wildly in love with my Blackness this year, and it has seeped into all parts of how I carry myself. I approach beauty now with the standard that it must make me feel empowered and beautiful with who I am as a Black woman. Anything else will not be accepted.
Serena Kerrigan, creator of Let’s Fucking Date
My hair and makeup routine has drastically changed. During quarantine, I created the first Instagram Live reality show (Let’s Fucking Date) and given these dates were taking place in my living room over a live feed, I had room to experiment with crazy new looks. Each week my nails, hair extensions, wild makeup, and my outfit would tell a whole new story. When I do have the opportunity to do my glam, I go all out. Erika Jayne is quite literally shaking.
At first, I kept it very safe with a blowout bob and some winged eyeliner, and then I began making bolder choices with my looks. It was no longer about looking attractive for the date, it was about having fun and making choices that made me feel confident. Ultimately ,my approach to glam is the way I follow the rest of my life: if it isn’t a fuck yes, it’s a no.
Orion Carloto, poet and author of Film for Her
Growing up, I was one of the lucky ones who didn't seem to have much troubles with my skin. But of course, as my twenties rolled around and a global pandemic crossed its path, my face and everything I thought I knew about skin care began to drastically change. Not only were my hormones all over the place, but my stress levels were at an all time high. When you mix the two together, you find yourself in a pit of isolation and deep insecurities. As the acne began to accumulate on my cheeks, the way I perceived myself began taking a negative turn as well.
It became second nature to compare my appearance to every person who caught my eye, so I found myself in this continuous cycle of picking at my face while slowly watching my self confidence plummet before my very eyes. Luckily with all of the time quarantine has given me, I began the process of testing out what worked and what didn't in my routine. I've also been much more careful about who and what I give my energy to. It's been a night and day difference and I'm lucky to admit that I can feel my confidence slowly restoring itself day by day.
Jordan Risa, social media consultant and content creator
I'm learning less is more, in every sense. Less hair washing, less shaving, less putting on makeup, less masking, less everything. I've also been wearing way less makeup (if I am wearing makeup at all) and I've been more comfortable seeing my face makeup free. I've always been pretty minimal when it comes to beauty, but I've learned which products I can now go without. I used to not go to work or shoot without wearing liner, eyeshadow and mascara, but now, I've been just doing a tinted moisturizer, bronzer, blush, and brows. I also have been learning to give products like bronzer and blush multiple uses.
As for beauty standards, this year more than any other year has shown me how little outward beauty matters when you're not working on your inner beauty. I know that's so cheesy to say, but I mean it. I've found the most beautiful people to be the ones who are doing better for this world and the online world rather than those who are just a pretty face. I'm craving depth and connection with people more than ever. I think the beauty industry is changing as a whole, focusing more on beauty necessities and skincare rather than the extra stuff. I'm hoping to continue with this less is more approach. Simplifying my routines has meant simplifying my beauty purchasing and intake, which is ultimately better for the environment and my bank account. I want to focus more on what I look like from the inside than the outside.
Nicolette Mason, creative consultant and influencer
Pre-pandemic, I was going to a lot of events, press junkets, or doing more frequent photoshoots that necessitated a lot of full-glam and prep; I definitely had a bit of an attachment to some of my beauty treatments (getting my nails done, lashes lifted, facials every couple of months) that haven't been possible to upkeep or have just felt outside of my comfort zone. I can't lie and say this wasn't disorienting at first. It was. I struggled to feel like myself for a while, struggled with feeling motivated with stay-at-home orders, and since so much of my life is shared on social and through first-person-narrative, it got really hard to look at and see my own face looking back at me through my front-facing camera.
One of the hardest things to contend with is how standard VR filters had gotten to be on Instagram (especially since that had been the forum for most of my social interaction and connectedness). I kept seeing what used to be familiar-faces with these incredibly altering face filters (plumped up cheekbones and lips, added makeup, thinned out jawlines, et) It made me feel so dysphoric. I was comparing the "bare" me to this AR filter version of people I know, and that was something to reckon with.
Asia Jackson, actress and YouTuber
If there's anything that quarantine has taught me, it's that I do actually love myself. Living alone during quarantine has made me face myself and my insecurities and since I didn't have much external pressure this year, I was able to be truly introspective and learn how to love who I am. I've definitely become more comfortable with not wearing foundation all the time, and in fact my skin has gotten so much healthier because I'm focusing on the health of it instead of just the aesthetic aspect of it. I started the year trying to seek balance in my life, and I feel like I've finally found what that looks like. I'm definitely going to continue my current beauty and grooming habits well after this is all over.
Stella Simona, influencer and co-founder of Amarilo Jewelry & Haati Chai
Not much has changed. There are days when I’m going all out and have a multi-step routine and then there are days where I keep it simple. I try to dedicate at least 10-15 min at a time when indulging in self-care so I really give myself a moment to reset. I've found that taking a bath with CBD salts really enhances one of my favorite ways to unwind.
As a woman that has never been considered “the beauty standard”, I came to terms with this at a young age and dedicated my time towards making sure I search out what I find beautiful and surround myself with that. Beauty is everywhere, beauty comes in many forms—we need to continue to normalize that. Taking the time for beauty and health as forms of self-care has really helped me embrace these views.